The key is getting more sales is not just down to one thing. There’s no magic trick that if you do this one thing then your booking numbers will explode. There are a number of areas however that if you concentrate on and do well in, then an increase in sales will naturally follow. These include the basics of offering a great tour and providing an amazing customer experience. Others areas that people are not maybe doing so well at is marketing their business, generating reviews and increasing their web presence.
This week we look at how using online booking software can help you generate more sales.
See Dublin by Bike, who are one of the leading providers of bike tours around Ireland’s capital, have been using Acteavo to help them manage their online bookings. Below we look at how Julian and Sean, the owners of See Dublin by Bike, have managed to increase their bookings by over 50%.
Increasing Sales and Minimising Lost Sales:
As a tour operator, you need to consider the following facts on customer behaviour:
- 40% of travel bookings are made outside normal office hours
- Only 1 in 3 people leave a voicemail when they ring
- You have less than 10 seconds that grab someone’s attention
Potential customers, are usually pressed for time and when they land on your website, they just want to secure their booking. If they have to wait for you to call them back or email them, they may change their mind or simply book with someone else. That’s a lost booking that was yours for the taking, and over the course of a year this can be very expensive. Say you get 10 leads per day and only 4 actually end up booking, even if 2 of those lost bookings went to someone else – that’s 730 lost bookings per year! That adds up to a lot of cash.
Taken in isolation a lost booking here and there isn’t that a big a deal. We talk about this in another blog post using a ‘leaky pipe’ analogy, and losing drips of water. At first this doesn’t seem like a big deal. The trouble is that a consistent small drip from a number of places can create a huge loss over time.
This is why using online booking software helps increase your sales and minimise these lost bookings.
See Dublin by Bike
When See Dublin by Bike first started out, as they said themselves they were “managing fine” by taking bookings over the phone and on email. After a while to accelerate their growth, Julian and Sean decided to put their website to work and start using an online booking system.
“OVER 50% INCREASE IN SALES”
Julian said that giving customers the ability to instantly book has had “a big impact” on their business. “We would try and get back to customers as quickly as possible. Quite a lot of the time though, we would be doing tours and it could a while before we got a chance to respond. Most customers would still be interested but there would be a number that didn’t respond or had changed their mind”.
One of the big surprises for Julian and Sean was the time of day that customers tended to book. “I was really surprised by the number of bookings that we got in the evenings after we had finished for the day”. By giving your customers the ability to book 24/7, you are capturing that 40% of people that book outside normal opening hours.
“SAVED US HOURS EVERY WEEK”
Julian and Sean had been spending a huge amount of time calling customers back and responding to emails. To confirm one booking they could send up to +6 emails, going back and forth to the customer. By using a fully automated booking system, customers could now book online, get their email confirmation with all the details they need, without the need to talk to someone.
“OUR NO SHOWS WERE COMPLETELY ELIMINATED”
With the best will in the world, if someone books a tour and doesn’t pay for it upfront, there will be times when they just won’t show up. This might be down to the fact that they just forgot, were lazy, got a better offer, the weather wasn’t so good etc. If someone pays for something upfront, you can be darn sure that person will turn up for it. Sure, things come up were cancellations happen from time to time, but no business owner likes no-shows as it’s a costly business. See Dublin by Bike are no different and they had to contend with no shows before using online booking software. Julian says that another big benefit to them of using an online booking system is that their “no shows were completely eliminated”.
Is This Something That Every Tour Business Can Use?
The short answer is: it depends. See Dublin by Bike, are a good example of a tour business that is well suited to using online booking software and can therefore benefit from using it. They have scheduled tours that run at regular times, sell at lower price/higher volume and their customers can easily book online.
Other businesses that have a different type of offering, will need to make sure that the online booking system they choose is the right fit for their business. They may offer:
- More bespoke tours – that need to be tailored to their customer
- On demand times – only run tours when the demand is there
- Activities for the local market – and therefore need things like user logins, memberships
- Activities that need a lot of inventory management
- Higher value/lower volume tours – where customers need more one-to-one contact before booking
So What Do I Need To Do?
Once you start using online booking software, it’s not a case of ‘my work here is done!’ and sit back and watch the bookings roll in – although that does happen too. You need to make sure you position your ‘Book Now’ buttons in an optimal place so customers can find it. You also need to continually promote your website and work on your overall web presence.
Increase your web presence
Selling more tours through your own website is probably your number one marketing goal. For this to happen you need to have your website optimised when potential customers actually land there. Firstly though, you will need to increase your overall web presence. With so many different marketing options out there, “How does one do that?”, you might ask. By applying what we call ‘The Octopus’ method, this will help you build a solid online presence. It’s about focusing on making your basket as big as possible – not just doing one thing incessantly, but taking micro-steps every day which work to a grand whole. By applying a lot of different strategies, you’ll notice that various components begin to work with each other as people see your business mentioned in more than one place during their research.
Promote your website
We can’t stress enough how important it is to have a nice looking website to showcase your business. This is the best shop window you have. It’s not something you have to spend a lot of money on either. There are plenty of free tools and content that you can generate yourself. So it’s not about elaborate, flashy sites but it is about having something that looks professional and gives a good impression of your business. We cover this in more detail in a previous blog post, Getting Your Website To Perform For You.
Where to put your ‘Book Now’ button
Otherwise known as a ‘Call to Action’, this is the button or link you want your customers to click to book with you. You can call it what you want, but ‘Book Now’ is fairly unambiguous. Crazy Egg, who are masters at conversion optimisation, give some tips on How To Optimise Call to Actions. The basic to this are don’t bury it in your website, have it on your first page; make it stand out in terms of colour and size; and keep it simple. We also go into this in more detail in Making Your Website Effective.